Results tagged ‘ Jim Hickey ’
When the Tampa Bay Rays first acquired Chad Qualls from the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the end of the Trade Deadline, I thought a change of scenery might be just the thing for him. You know the drill, a change of venue can bring about a change in attitude and also confidence. Plus Qualls was coming to a team that boasted a former team mate (Dan Wheeler) and a Pitching Coach (Jim Hickey) back from when Qualls used to be a sub 3.50 ERA machine. But for some reason know, I am thinking we got a dose of quantity over quality so far.
Sure it was great for Qualls to exit stage right in a hurry from the Diamondbacks, especially considering Qualls had posted a 8.29 ERA over his 43 appearances and only produced 12 saves in 16 opportunities. But the Rays did not bring Qualls here to be an 8th inning set-up man, they brought him here to establish a bit of groundball dominance on a team whose defense wins them games.
As I mentioned before, Qualls accumulated his high ERA (8.29) in only 38 total innings with the Diamondbacks while also giving up a grand total of 61 hits,41 runs and 5 Homers during his stay in the hot desert Sun. I was curious to see if Qualls had actually gotten better since his departure from the Diamondbacks and actually discovered Qualls really might just be more quantity than quality right now, even for the Rays.
Over his last 10 appearances, Quall has seen his ERA bounce from a 7.43 ERA to a 8.20 ERA, coming extremely close to his pre-D-back days. And these stats come from his last 10 Rays appearances, and could be a clue the Rays might have gotten a bit duped by acquiring Qualls. He has pitched 11.2 innings in his last 10 appearances, which include giving up a total of 13 hits and 8 runs while blowing 2 save opportunities. But that is not the most alarming stat. The fact Qualls has given up 6 walks against 7 strikeouts tends to point to Qualls might not be a better addition to the Rays Bullpen than a guy from Triple-A right now.
And that is huge when you are in the stretch run trying to catch back up to the New York Yankees and solidify your Bullpen with a playoff mentality. Even more disheartening for Rays fans might be the pure fact he has been a disaster against left-handed hitters since his trade to the Rays. Qualls has thrown 4.1 innings against lefties this year and has blown his 2 save against them, plus bolstered a 14.54 ERA left-handers and a .421 opponents batting average. An accent mark on the whole scenario is Qualls has given up his only Home Run to a left-hander while with the Rays.
But even with all these negative stats floating over Qualls head, he does have a few positives to build on here. Against right-handers, Qualls has posted an impressive 1.23 ERA ( .208 average) with 6 strikeouts. Tends to make you think he will be only posted against right-handed batters the rest of the way through the season. Another sign that Qualls might be finally adjusting back to his old self is the fact Qualls posted a 5.06 ERA for the month of August, his best month of the 2010 Major League Baseball season.
Even with that little ray of sunshine peeking out with his August stats, his September has gotten off on the really rough footing. Right now in his lone appearance of September, Qualls has given up 4 hits and 2 earned run in his only inning of work against the Orioles on Sunday. Boost another fact clear into the light that Qualls has a 13.50 ERA against Boston in his career (1.1 innings), and you get a little more for the Rays to worry about if Qualls takes the mound in this critical series in Fenway Park.
Could yesterdays appearance against the Orioles where Qualls entered the game with a Rays 6-5 lead, but did not register an out, and instantly surrendered 2 hits and walk. Qualls also saw two of the inherited men on base score along with two credited to him in this brief outing. Kind of shovels a level of dirt over his last 6 prior appearances, which were scoreless. His 2010 opponents batting average of .351 is the highest among Major League relievers. Adding more dirt to the pile is the fact his 7.79 combined ERA is also the highest among Major League relievers.
Hopefully we will see a reduced role with Qualls over the rest of the season, and that his name was not on the original post season roster submitted by the Rays to MLB on August 31st. Qualls might have some use between today and October 4th, but he should not be added or even considered for the post season roster. And it is a pity that the pitcher who posted a career high mark of 24 saves and led all Major League relievers with a 1.21 BB/9IP ratio and 6.43 SO/9IP ratio has seen his career this season plunder into the darkness.
But it is time Rays. It is time to admit the trade was not going to pan out and cut our losses before something drastic happens, or we lose another game at the hand of Qualls. And it is a real shame that his pitching “Quall-ity” did not bring more success for the Rays as we saw plenty of quantity runs scored against him.
Baseball has endured all kinds of horrors and indiscretions over its duration. There has been the Spitball or doctoring the ball Era, the Dead Ball Era, Live Ball Era, and of course, the recent Steroid Era. But for some reason, I am beginning to think Major League Baseball might be entering into another new and systematically devastating era that has just starting to peak its way over the horizon…. I am beginning to think we are just on the threshold of the Electronic Era.
With the advancements in electronics, video equipment and also audio response devices, the whole scenario has endless possibilities. There are now people assigned to the job of breaking down a opposing pitcher’s mechanics to show indications of what pitch might be coming out of their hand at any particular moment. Teams have endless research and statistics at their fingertips from web sources and in-house agencies like Bloomberg Sports. And then there are the players who seek every advantage to get the upper hand on their competition, not just to gain a “W”, but to get added motivation and confidence. This Era could be the most devastating to the sport.
You might wonder why I am beginning to bring such matters up, why I am focusing on this one item that could explode and show that technology has made it was onto the field, and that one recent discovery, maybe by accident, could show that violations could already be effecting the game I love. It is not like Major League Baseball players will take an edge or any advantage they can get and throw it out the window if it is in a gray area. But when they step into that black and white area where few dare to tread for repercussions and penalties, that is when I am concerned.
Tuesday night during the Tampa Bay Rays game against the San Diego Padres, I first heard a few mumbles from a few faithful Rays fans of a certain player maybe having a “cheat sheet” in his back pocket on the field. Now I know players are allowed to have a small laminated sheet to illustrate maybe fielding positional changes, and maybe even give a heads up to hitting tendencies to a certain spot, or gap. But as I watched this player kind of without immediate attention that night something began to stir.
There I was again remembering how I used to use tactics of my own to get an edge in sports. I was not a dirty player, but if you let me have an advantage, I did take it and run every time. And the fielding “cheat sheets” by Padres Tony Gwynn Junior and Will Venable did not bother me until I personally saw something else pop out of Venable’s pocket on Wednesday night. From that moment on, for the rest of the night, I saw him take out both a laminated card and read it before certain Rays hitters, and then something else seemed to have come out of his pocket, and it shocked me.
In this blog I decided to include both the partially blown up photos to show the item in Venable’s hand, plus the original photo so you can download and blow it up in any shape or form for yourself to show that this item was bigger and more pronounced than the smaller white edged laminated sheet. It seemed that Venable might have been using a P D A or I-phone, or some other form of electronic items while he was camped in Rightfield at Tropicana Field. It shocked me at first, but then I realized that maybe it might be permissible during this type of series since the Rays and Padres would play only this small 3-game series, then maybe not see each other for another 6-8 years, unless it is in the World Series.
Fran Fusco, who has a long history of baseball in their family blood (she is the sister of ex-Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman) first alerted me to the situation on Wednesday night before the game. A few other Rays fans in the stands also gave their vocal interpretations to the events of the previous night, so I decided to try and find out for myself, see if this is really happening, or was just a mirage caused by the reflective lights of the Trop. hitting the paper at a weird angle. Wish I could say it was all a figment of our collective imaginations, but it was as real as Carlos Pena hitting an opposite field Home Run, or Matt Garza’s goatee.
So after the game I showed the pictures to a member of the Rays Radio Network, and he asked me to forward the photos to him for further examination. He also asked me not to bring attention the knowledge of these photos for a day, which I was more than happy to oblige since I had not been able to blow them up properly while sitting in the seating bowl. But when I did blow up two of the photos later that night at home, there was a distinctive difference in the shapes and sizes of the two items in question…The plot thickened immediately.
I especially paid close attention to Venable’s left back pants pocket that was showed a huge change in the shape of his right pocket, which had a pair of batting gloves sticking out of them. The rectangular shape could have been a tri-folded laminated card, but there was also a dim light source that could not be formed by the lighting pattern within Tropicana Field, so the mystery got thicker and thicker for me. I kind of half paid attention, but still got some good shots of the pocket, and Venable taking either item out to glance at it between innings, or during pitching changes that night.
Venable was definitely using the chart or device to gain an advantage or educate himself on the Rays tendencies during that contest. I first noticed him looking at the chart/device during Rays D H Hank Blalock’s plate appearance, then during pitching changes of two Padres relievers, Rick Webb and Mike Adams. Venable was so nonchalant about the items in his left rear pocket that it really did not alarm me that night. But after the game the Rays front office member I sent the photos to, plus the urgency of that transfer told me I might have stumbled on something here.
I got a rumor floated to me that Venable had told a few members of the Rays that it ” was a laminated card”, which in a few of the photos it definitely looked like just that, but a few of the other photos, there was a darker item that was thicker and more like a portable device than a simple one-ply piece of paper with lamination on it. I had heard through the Rays grapevine before Thursday afternoon’s game that three other Rays fans had reported the event, plus one writing a letter to the National League President Frank Robinson about the episode. So with so many people now showing extreme attention to this set of events, I carefully studied and watched Venable with extreme precision on Thursday.
Sixteen times in Thursdays match-up Venable went to his back pocket in plain sight of everyone in the stands, to check his card. This time he made it clear and evident to everyone that it was indeed a card and not anything else. He even did it at multiple angles to give any camera now trained on him an exclusive look and possible angle to show he was in compliance during that game. It was also during Thursdays contest that I also saw Gywnn bring out his card during a break in the action. The Padres had definitely heard someone was watching them, and they played the game to the fullest.
And it is alarming to me that this kind of event could be going on at other games and venues right now. I can understand using these kind of devices in the clubhouse, or even the dugout to inform and help players adjust accordingly for games. But if this technology creeps into the fabric of the game during play in the field, that is where I personally draw a line in the clay. There are Coaches on either bench who can adjust or even sway a defensive alignment with a hand gesture, and there are charts that can be reviewed between innings to help guide a impromptu adjustment. But electronic devices need to stay outside the lines.
There are already too many calls for reviews, electronic strike zones to complicate the game instead of simplify it. If there is an Electronic Era evolving around the game as I predict, hopefully we can keep it off the field and in the dark where it belongs. Not darkness to not acknowledge its existence, but darkness to keep prying eyes way from vital information that each team collects and administers at the right moment. One of the reason kids take up the game of baseball is not for the team building skills but for the simplicity of the game. Throw the ball, hit the ball, run to the base.
If this violation is found to warrant further review it will not change the outcome of the Rays two losses during this series, but it could be an indication that some people are seeing loopholes in the system. Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey came over before Thursdays contest and asked me what I had seen the night before. I immediately let him know I transferred photos to a Rays team official, and that the photos were now also in the Rays hands to do what they will with them.
I am not out to get someone in trouble, suspended or even fined for something that happened during that Rays versus Padres series. But I want fairness to be achieved. I want the Rays to know that nothing is going on that gives another team an advantage. I learned as a young kid that “cheaters never prosper.” Hopefully that old quote also applies to the MLB too.
Believe me, I understand the Tampa Bay Rays and their anti-Philadelphia baseball-related sentiments after also personally enduring some of that civic indigestion following the conclusion of the 2008 World Series against the “City of Brotherly Love”. And I truly get Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s sense of irony and side joke the Tampa Bay Rays team possibly all wearing Chicago Blackhawks jerseys with the Chi-town team opening the 2010 Stanley Cup finals in Philadelphia this Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. But really Joe, wearing Blackhawks gear?
I might be the only one thinking on this vein, but I find it a bit confusing that the Rays squad is even considering wearing Chicago Blackhawk custom made hockey sweaters minutes after we conclude our 3-game series against a team that resides in the South side of Chi-town. I totally get and support Maddon on his creative idea to showcase Canada’s National sport since we are heading to Toronto following Sunday’s finale against the White Sox, but maybe wearing Blackhawks gear is a bit too much for me?
Not sure if that is a great way to bolster any additional Tampa Bay civic pride towards the Rays and possibly get more Rays fans to flock to the Trop. if you send a weird mix signal like this to the Rays Republic. This to me would be like me wearing my Cooperstown replica 1919 White Sox jersey to tonight’s Rays game and not being considered a “bandwagon” fan or even an outsider. And I commend Maddon for once again thinking extremely outside-the-box in boosting his squad’s morale and chemistry by bringing up the idea of wearing NHL hockey jerseys on their upcoming 6-game road trip’s first stop in to Toronto, but couldn’t we have asked the Tampa Bay Lightning first?
Maybe I am being a bit too “civic sensitive” here in thinking the Lightning might consider outfitting the Rays squad with their own jerseys especially since several current Rays players (Evan Longoria, B J Upton) and former Rays (Toby Hall, Scott Kazmir) have been known to wander around the Lightning locker room. And I could see Maddon possibly putting on a number 11 jersey of Chicago Blackhawk center John Madden at another moment in time, but not this weekend. Leave it to Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey to fuel the anti-Phillies fires with a nice cheeky statement in a US Today story on May 26th:
“Nothing like a little pro-Chicago, anti-Philadelphia sentiment. I thought we could share our mutual dislike for Philadelphia sports teams.”
But then again, this just might be my fault being a bit uber sensitive to this region’s plight to right the Rays attendance woes, then seeing a indirect signal from the Rays Coaching staff that flushes the past glory of their own hometown hockey franchise that used to play their NHL contests in the same confines as the Rays just perplexes me at the moment. How many people remember the sight of so many Tampa Bay hockey fans swarming the aisles of Tropicana Field, then the Thunderdome, to set the past record for a NHL post season playoff attendance record (25,945). It was a sign that hockey had finally come to this region and been embraced by the fans.
Sure, I might not have had a single thought about it all if we had played Boston this weekend, or maybe even Cleveland. But the fact that the Windy City’s other MLB squad is seated in our own visitor’s clubhouse, and this Rays team will be sporting their hometown’s NHL gear on the bus to St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport, then fly directly to Toronto definitely evoke a bit of additional indigestion.
Joe, got to say I loved the conceptual idea, but I personally hate the final result.